While we wait for mgrex03 to file his camp report, we can discuss the information provided to us by Mike Chappell of the Indy Star. In his Colts training camp article today, he stated that the Colts are shifting fourth round draft pick Jacques McClendon from guard to center.
Now, this move is significant because it sounds like it is not being done just to have McClendon be more versatile. It sounds like it is a permanent move. McClendon certainly has the intellectual chops to play center in the Colts offense. He got his Master's in Sports Management at Tennessee. Not just his Bachelor's degree. He had enough time, and brains, between getting that and playing football to also get his Master's.
Look at the big brain on Jacques!
In addition to his massive intelligence, McClendon is also a massive person, physically. At 6'3, 334 pounds, Jacques' a big boy. This size is in stark contrast to current Colts starter and potential Hall of Fame center Jeff Saturday. At 6'2, 295 pounds, Jeff is a full forty pounds lighter than McClendon. In years past, players like Jamey Richard (6'5, 295) and Kyle DeVan (6'2, 306 pounds) have worked as the back-up centers. Now, with McClendon and his wide load seemingly entrenched as the main back-up to Saturday, where does that leave Richard and DeVan?
The simply answer is that Richard and DeVan are, right now, the second team guards. They've been working pretty exclusively with the second team, and both have strong experience starting in big games. Remember, DeVan took Mike Pollak's job from him last year, and DeVan also started in the Super Bowl. If there are any players who should be concerned about their job status, it's people like Andy Alleman and Jaimie Thomas. right now, both are third team guards. Third team guards do not often make final roster cuts, especially when they offer little versatility outside of playing guard.
After jump, the cult of Brandon James...
It's pretty clear that our writings about Brandon James have gotten the attention of many enthusiastic Florida Gators fans. From a website called Only Gators Get Out Alive:
Word out of Indianapolis Colts training camp is also positive for undrafted free agent rookie Brandon James. Being utilized extensively on special teams, James is also getting the opportunity to catch passes and run reverse plays. He appears to be a shoe-in to get past first cuts and many of those covering the team believes he has the chance to be a Darren Sproles-like piece for the Colts in 2010.
As far as I know, only people at Stampede Blue have referred to James as another Darren Sproles, though I admit the comparison is an easy one to make at this stage of the game. It's important to point out though that while the Colts have indeed been using James as a specialist on offense, that doesn't mean he's been performing well. James has dropped some pretty routine passes in camp, and in one practice got ran down on a reverse by Jerry Hughes. Dropped passes will get you "the look" from Peyton Manning, and with that Darth Vader visor he's been wearing at camp, "the look" might be followed by a Force choke.
The real story with Brandon James is how the Colts are using him. From what I gather, it's pretty obvious they want to use him as a kick or punt returner. He's a lock to win one or both of those jobs. For this reason, I think he's a safe bet to be on the final 53, unless, of course, he screws up royally in pre-season. Since the Colts and Ray Rychleski (special teams coach) feel so confident about him as a returner, this means the need to maximize his presence on the roster by getting him involved in the offense.
This is why we have seen him split out as a WR, or running on reverse plays, with the first unit offense. The team recognizes his incredible speed and they want to get the ball in his hands, in space.
Regarding James' return skills, he is clearly a cut above the rest, according to spectators. When he makes his first cut, he's gone. The kids can go from zero to 100 very quickly. He has tremendous big play ability can could be a true weapon as a returner. So far, he's turned heads doing so at camp. If that kind of speed and play-making ability can transfer to pre-season and the regular season, the whole dynamic of the Colts will change.